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The World Health Organization define to an emergency

Health and safety of workers[edit]

Cleanup during disaster recovery involves many occupational hazards. Often these hazards are exacerbated by the conditions of the local environment as a result of the natural disaster.[4] While individual workers should be aware of these potential hazards, employers are responsible for minimizing exposure to these hazards and protecting workers, when possible. This includes identification and thorough assessment of potential hazards, application of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and the distribution of other relevant information in order to enable safe performance of the work.[5] Maintaining a safe and healthy environment for these workers ensures that the effectiveness of the disaster recovery is unaffected.

Physical exposures[edit]

Flood-associated injuries: Flooding disasters often expose workers to trauma from sharp and blunt objects hidden under murky waters causing lacerations, as well as open and closed fractures. These injuries are further exacerbated with exposure to the often contaminated waters, leading to increased risk for infection.[6] When working around water, there is always the risk of drowning. In addition, the risk of hypothermia significantly increases with prolonged exposure to water temperatures less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit.[7] Non-infectious skin conditions may also occur including miliariaimmersion foot syndrome (including trench foot), and contact dermatitis.[6]

Earthquake-associated injuries: The predominant injuries are related to building structural components, including falling debris with possible crush injury, trapped under rubble, burns, and electric shock.[8]

Chemical exposures[edit]

Hazardous material release[edit]

Chemicals can pose a risk to human health when exposed to humans at certain quantities. After a natural disaster, certain chemicals can be more prominent in the environment. These hazardous materials can be released directly or indirectly. Chemical hazards directly released after a natural disaster often occur concurrent with the event so little to no mitigation actions can take place for mitigation. For example, airborne magnesium, chloride, phosphorus, and ammonia can be generated by droughts. Dioxins can be produced by forest fires, and silica can be emitted by forest fires. Indirect release of hazardous chemicals can be intentionally released or unintentionally released. An example of intentional release is insecticides used after a flood or chlorine treatment of water after a flood. Unintentional release is when a hazardous chemical is not intentionally released. The chemical released is often toxic and serves beneficial purpose when released to the environment. These chemicals can be controlled through engineering to minimize their release when a natural disaster strikes. An example of this is agrochemicals from inundated storehouses or manufacturing facilities poisoning the floodwaters or asbestos fibers released from a building collapse during a hurricane.[9] The flowchart to the right has been adopted from research performed by Stacy Young, et al., and can be found here.[9]

Exposure limits